The Statesboro City Council entered into executive session Tuesday, during its regularly scheduled meeting, to discuss personnel matters, including the outlook for filling its city manager position.
According to members of council, the future of Statesboro's city manager role - filled on an interim basis since October by Frank Parker - was a topic of discussion during the closed-door session, but no conclusions were reached as result of the talk.
The city still has no immediate plans to find a new, permanent city manager or offer a full-time position to Parker, said Mayor Joe Brannen.
"Obviously, the issue is still on the burner," he said. "But right now, the decision to employ a full-time city manager is not on the front burner. We are probably looking to July, after the budget process ends, to make any decisions."
"Right now, we are going through the budget process and I feel things are going well within the city," said Brannen. "I think Parker is doing an excellent job as an interim city manager."
Parker, a land developer and former city councilman, was offered the interim job by council after the resignation of former city manager Shane Haynes in September 2010.
Deemed a cost-saving, temporary replacement to help stabilize city issues, Parker was hired at the cost of $3,000 per month and signed to a rolling 30-day contract. After a second 30 days serving the post, the interim manager was offered a $1,000 raise and six-month contract effective beginning in December.
Four months into the most recent contract, no formal, announced plans have been established to find a permanent city manager, according to council - Parker's contract ends in early June.
"As of right now, everything is status quo with Frank [Parker]," said Councilman Will Britt. "I don't see any bad decisions being made and have not seen anything negative at this point."
"I think things are pretty good with the city," he said. "I think we can continue progressing as a city with Frank Parker as interim manager until we are ready to hire a permanent city manager."
According to councilmen, the city may not make a decision regarding the position until June, after the budget for the forthcoming fiscal year has been finalized - Parker, along with city staff, is currently preparing the budget.
"I believe we do need to have a search for the position," said Councilman John Riggs. "But right now, we are right in the middle of formulating our budget for next year. I don't think that now would be the best time to start searching. I don't want to change horses in mid-stream."
A search for a permanent city manager - advertising the position, locating and interviewing candidates - would take about five weeks, said Britt.
"If I had to assume what is going to happen, I would say that we are going to continue having discussions about the issue every couple of meetings," he said. "I believe, shortly, we need to begin a search to see what is out there in the job market."
"I feel that if there is a candidate out there that is exceptional, then I would be interested in making a change. But a decent candidate, with decent credentials, is not better than Frank Parker," said Britt. "We are comfortable with what Frank [Parker] is doing and how he is doing it."
Britt plans on rehashing the issue during the first scheduled meeting in May, he said.
"I'm all for beginning a search now," said Riggs. "But hopefully we will have at least done something by June. If Frank Parker wants to apply for the position, that is awesome. If there is someone more qualified than him, then they should get the job."
Councilman Travis Chance said the impression he has received from city leaders, is that some minds are already set on a decision.
"My impression is that the majority of city council and the mayor are content to keep things the way they are. There are reasons why they feel that way, but none of those reasons include what is best for the city of Statesboro - which is finding someone who could step into the position and move the city forward." said Chance. "Whether it happens tomorrow, next week, next month or in six months, some members of council have already decided that the city will keep Frank Parker full-time."
According to Chance, any search conducted by the city to fill the position would be a ploy to divert negative attention.
"It is my impression that council, unless the public expresses dissatisfaction, is going to appoint Frank Parker to a full-time position, regardless of a search," he said. "If there is a search done, it will be strictly political and the same result will come of it."
The issue with retaining the interim city manager as a full-time employee, said Chance, "has nothing to do with [Parker's] job performance," but experience.
"I like Frank [Parker] personally, and think that he has done the best job that he is able to do in recent months," he said. "But, how can we afford not to do [a legitimate search]? What about situations where the experience of a professional city manager would provide a little more insight into an issue in the future?"
According to Britt, council will have to inform Parker of future plans 30 days before his current contract expires - Parker's six month contract ends June 5, he said.
The Statesboro City Council is scheduled to convene again April 19 at 6 p.m. in Georgia Southern University's Nesmith-Lane Building. The council will hold its annual budget retreat, in which Parker will present the city budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, April 22 at 8:30 a.m. at The Gateway Pondhouse on Georgia Highway 301 North. The public is invited to attend.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454